George Smith had been a distiller in the remote glen of the river Livet prior to the Excise Act of 1823, but in 1824 he became the first distiller to obtain a licence to distil.
His whisky's popularity grew quickly, due in part to agent Andrew Usher, who drove sales and created Usher's Old Vatted Glenlivet, one of the first blended whisky brands.
In 1858, George Smith and his son John Gordon built the Glenlivet distillery at Minmore Farm, where it remains to this day.
So many other distillers in and around the Glenlivet region used the name Glenlivet for their whiskies that in 1884 Smith's grandson, George Smith Grant, went to court to claim exclusive right to use the name. It was eventually agreed that Smith had the right to call his whisky 'The Glenlivet' and other distilleries could use the Glenlivet as a suffix (eg Macallan Glenlivet, Longmorn Glenlivet, Strathisla Glenlivet, Aberlour Glenlivet, Dufftown Glenlivet, Glenfarclas Glenlivet etc). The practise continued for over 100 years.
After World War II, single malt bottlings became more widespread, but even by the 1970s, 95% of the distillery's output was still used in blends.
Today the distillery is owned by Pernod Ricard and remains the second best-selling single malt whisky in the world, after Glenfiddich.